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Former NBCUniversal chief executive Jeff Shell was fired for sexual harassment after an investigation found evidence that corroborated a female employee’s complaint, Comcast Corp said on Monday (US time).
On Sunday, Comcast had said that Shell was leaving the company because of “inappropriate conduct.” A two-decade veteran of the company, Shell acknowledged an “inappropriate relationship” with a woman who worked at Comcast, “which I deeply regret.”
Former NBCUniversal chief Jeff Shell oversaw the media company’s broad portfolio of businesses, including the Universal film studio and television business, the Peacock streaming service and Universal’s theme parks.Credit: Getty Images
The complaint was filed by Hadley Gamble, an anchor for Comcast-owned news channel CNBC International, her lawyer said. Some media reports had identified her on Sunday.
“Given these circumstances, it is very disappointing that my client’s name has been released and her privacy violated,” attorney Suzanne McKie said in an email.
In a regulatory filing on Monday, Comcast said it had hired an outside counsel to investigate a complaint against Shell and the probe uncovered evidence of sexual harassment.
Because he was fired for cause, Shell will not receive severance pay, said a source familiar with the matter.
Shell did not respond to a request for comment on Monday.
Shell took over as CEO of NBC Universal in 2020, replacing Steve Burke. He oversaw the media company’s broad portfolio of businesses, including the Universal film studio and television business, the Peacock streaming service and Universal’s theme parks.
The former chairman of NBCUniversal Film and Entertainment took over as CEO in 2020, replacing Steve Burke. He oversaw the media company’s broad portfolio of businesses, including the Universal film studio and television business, the Peacock streaming service and Universal’s theme parks.
Comcast did not immediately name a successor.
The complaint was filed by Hadley Gamble, an anchor for Comcast-owned news channel CNBC International, her attorney confirmed.Credit: Getty Images
At a time when rival studios were investing heavily in streaming in a race to add subscribers, Shell adopted a more conservative approach.
Peacock, conceived under his predecessor, would preserve the familiar television business model – which relies on advertising – instead of relying exclusively on subscription revenue. The subscription approach has been embraced by Netflix, which long avoided commercials.
Peacock has made gains, though it is smaller than rival services. It surpassed 20 million subscribers in the fourth quarter of 2022, thanks to the FIFA World Cup and the addition of NBC shows. The division’s losses also deepened from a year earlier.
That is one challenge Shell’s successor will confront, along with the decline of the traditional television business.
Shell’s senior team will now report directly to Comcast President Mike Cavanagh, Comcast said in a company-wide email that was made available to Reuters.
“When our principles and policies are violated, we will always move quickly to take appropriate action, as we have done here,” Cavanagh and Comcast CEO Brian Roberts said in the email.
In 2020, NBCUniversal vice chairman Ron Meyer left the company after disclosing a settlement with a woman with whom he had a consensual affair years ago.
Shell joins other high-profile executives who have lost their jobs in recent years over accusations of improper conduct or sexual harassment.
In 2019, Warner Bros Chairman and Chief Executive Kevin Tsujihara resigned as one of Hollywood’s most powerful studios investigated a report that he improperly helped an actress obtain roles at the studio.
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